WEAPONS ACKNOWLEDGED DESTROYED, BUT WHY?
by Sharon Rondeau
The government of Yemen was overtaken by Houthi rebels, who are Shiite Muslims, backed by the Iranian government in a coup which began in the fall and strengthened last month.
Yemen, which borders Saudi Arabia, is considered the poorest of the Middle Eastern countries.
In September, Houthis had gained control of the capital city of Sanaa after claiming that then-Yemeni president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had not given them sufficient recognition in the parliament. Hadi, who was reportedly supported by the U.S. government, was held under house arrest by the Houthis on January 21 pending a power-sharing agreement.
On January 22, The IBTimes reported that “The deteriorating security and political situation in Yemen has made it an easy target for Iranian intervention. The impoverished nation has been plagued by an al Qaeda Sunni insurgency, tribal and separatist conflicts, and escalating sectarian and economic crises in recent years.”
On Tuesday, the U.S. embassy in Yemen was officially closed and personnel evacuated as a takeover of the country by the Houthis appeared imminent. The British and French embassies in Yemen also closed on Tuesday.
As U.S. personnel evacuated the embassy, U.S.-owned vehicles were left behind and reportedly “seized” by the Houthis.
According to Fox News on Wednesday, “the closure of the embassy will be seen as a blow to the Obama administration, which had held up its partnership with ousted Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government as a model for his strategy in combatting terrorism, particularly in unstable countries.”
According to Wikipedia, the Houthis’ motto is “God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.” A reporter for The New York Times in Yemen on assignment reported today that in an interview with the Houthi leader, he was told that “‘Death To America’… “ius [sic] just a slogan we don’t mean it literally. We want to be friends with the United States, and Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the region.”
The Houthi “leader” reportedly denied that his group is financed by Iran, with whom Obama has been negotiating over its nuclear weapons ambitions by dropping economic sanctions, agreeing to a majority of its demands and upon which the U.S. reportedly plans to depend for “regional stability in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.”
Iran has been considered a state sponsor of terrorism since 1979, when it seized the U.S. embassy there and took 66 Americans hostage. While the hostage-takers eventually released 15 of their captives, the others were held for 444 days. In April 1980, then-President Jimmy Carter attempted a rescue operation which failed and resulted in eight American deaths.
In a Quinnipiac poll last summer, Obama was rated lower than Carter in American presidents since World War II. Obama’s approach to Iran and other issues of national security were described in an editorial published at Accuracy in Media (AIM) ast June by former Commander of the Pacific Fleet Adm. James “Ace” Lyons (Ret.) as “The agenda an enemy would devise.”
On Thursday, Military.com reported that “Marines Destroyed All Weapons in Evacuation” and quoted from a statement from the U.S. Marine Corps.
In an editorial published on Thursday morning, Capt. Joseph R. John (Ret.) wrote in an editorial on the situation in Yemen and the Marines’ evacuation:
On February 11th, instead of sending US Marines in from pre-positioned ships by helicopters in order to evacuate the US Marines from the US Embassy along with all US weapons from the US Embassy, the State Department ordered the US Marines to destroy all the weapons in the US Embassy except for their own personal rifles. The US Marines were then ordered to remove the firing pins from their personal rifles before they were allowed to be transported to the airport for evacuation. The US Marine contingent was ordered by the US State Department to board transportation vehicles controlled by the Houthis so they could be driven to the airport. While en route to the airport, they came under enemy fire with no way to defend themselves. When they got to the airport, in order to be permitted to leave, they were told to turn in their personal rifles—“US Marines are trained to never to surrender their weapons.” No US military aircraft were employed to pick up the US Marines and depart from Yemen; private aircraft were hired by the US State Department to fly the US Marines out of Yemen.
The Post & Email then contacted military spokesman LCDR Nathan Christensen about the evacuation of the Marines. Our initial email to Christensen reads:
Good morning, Commander, are you able to shed light on this report which states that U.S. Marines were told to “surrender” their weapons before evacuating Yemen?
Is that the first time in history Marines have been told to surrender their weapons?
Why did that occur, and why were they not transported out on military aircraft rather than State Department aircraft?
Who is the direct commander over the Marines who were evacuated? Did Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey approve this strategy?
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
P.O. Box 195
Stafford Springs, CT 06076
Christensen responded by copying in two military contacts who could presumably answer our questions along with the complete statement made by the U.S. Marine Corps about the evacuation, which reads:
Media colleagues, as a courtesy we are forwarding the below statement from the Marine Corps.
Attributable as a written statement from the Marine Corps.
“The Marine Security Force left the American embassy in Yemen for the movement to the airfield as part of the “ordered departure” with only personal weapons. All crew served weapons were destroyed at the embassy prior to movement. None of them were ‘handed over’ in any way to anyone. The destruction of weapons at the embassy and the airport was carried out in accordance with an approved destruction plan.
Upon arrival at the airfield, all personal weapons were rendered inoperable in accordance with advance planning. Specifically, each bolt was removed from its weapons body and rendered inoperable by smashing with sledgehammers. The weapons bodies, minus the bolts, were then separately smashed with sledgehammers. All of these destroyed components were left at the airport — and components were scattered; no usable weapon was taken from any Marine at Sana’a airport.
To be clear: No Marine handed a weapon to a Houthi, or had one taken from him.”
Defense Press Office, Duty Officer
Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs The Pentagon
The statement can be found at the Marine Corps website.
We then sent a message to one of those contacts:
|From:||Sharon Rondeau (firstname.lastname@example.org)|
|Sent:||Thu 2/12/15 11:14 AM|
Hello, I was referred to you by LCDR Nathan Christensen for questions on the above.He sent me the press release on the destruction of the Marines’ weapons.Is that something that is normally done when an embassy is evacuated? A retired Navy captain who contributes columns to my newspaper said that Marines are taught never to relinquish their personal weapons.Why didn’t they simply take the weapons with them instead of destroying them with sledgehammers?Are the Marines who left Yemen on Wednesday now unarmed, or have they been rearmed by their unit commanders?Who devised the “preapproved plan” for evacuation of the Marines?Is there a reason why they used a civilian aircraft to make their departure rather than a military aircraft?Who is the commander of the unit of Marines evacuated on Wednesday?Were any U.S. Marines injured during the evacuation that you know of?
Thank you very much.
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
P.O. Box 195
Stafford Springs, CT 06076
to which we received the following response just before press time:
|From:||Smith, Elissa J CDR USN OSD PA (US) (email@example.com)|
|Sent:||Thu 2/12/15 12:59 PM|
|To:||Sharon Rondeau (firstname.lastname@example.org)|
|Cc:||Avots, Bradlee J Maj USMC OSD PA (US) (email@example.com)|
My colleague Maj. Brad Avots is taking the Yemen portfolio. He’s cc’d above.
Cmdr. Elissa Smith
Office of the Secretary of Defense
Public Affairs/Press Operations/Pentagon
Portfolio: Middle East
Tel: 703-614-8056 Pentagon, Rm 2D961
Fox News reported on Thursday:
As conflicts and civil wars rage across the Middle East and North Africa, a shadowy covert cell operating under the Iranian government is fueling the bloodshed.
Unit 190, a secret arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force made up of about two-dozen employees, has for years smuggled arms to these conflict zones.
After an extensive investigation tracing the land, air and sea routes used by the Quds Force to move weapons to Hezbollah, Hamas and now the Houthis in Yemen, Fox News has also learned from western intelligence sources the name of the Iranian man who is a key player in Unit 190: Behnam Shahariyari, born in 1968 in Ardabil, northwest Iran.
Update, 1:16 p.m.: The following response to our questions was just received:
|From:||Avots, Bradlee J Maj USMC OSD PA (US) (firstname.lastname@example.org)|
|Sent:||Thu 2/12/15 1:14 PM|
|To:||Smith, Elissa J CDR USN OSD PA (US) (email@example.com); ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ (email@example.com)|
Thank you for your email. I recommend you reach out the Marine Corps and State Department who can best answer your questions – since it was a State Dept ordered departure and the Marines are better able to answer your specific questions.